COVID-19 mitigation efforts are showing promising results, with declining hospitalization rates and slowing spread. Many have credited these positive developments to the coronavirus vaccines. The first two COVID-19 vaccines on the market, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are mRNA vaccines and require two doses to achieve maximum efficacy. But the latest vaccine available, from Johnson & Johnson, is a different type of vaccine altogether. Read on to learn more about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, including what makes it different and whether you should wait for one of the other two if you have a chance.
Adenovirus Vector Vaccines
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is what is called an adenovirus vector vaccine. These vaccines work by using an inactivated adenovirus (one of the many viruses that can cause the common cold) and engineering it to carry genetic code for the spike protein found on the coronavirus. This allows your immune system to learn how to identify this spike protein, enabling it to defend itself if the real virus should show up in your system. It is important to note that the modified virus itself is harmless and will not actually infect you.
Unlike the mRNA vaccines, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be kept in a regular refrigerator and does not require extremely cold temperatures to stay viable. This means it will be significantly easier to store and transport, which could make it ideal for rural communities or mobile vaccination sites. It is also logistically easier to distribute since only one dose is necessary for maximum efficacy.
Should You Wait for Another Vaccine?
Some people have voiced concerns that the supposed lower efficacy rate of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be problematic. Clinical data puts the efficacy rate of preventing symptomatic illness at around 72 percent, as opposed to rates of the other vaccines, which is 94 percent for Moderna and 95 percent for Pfizer-BioNTech. However, experts note that all three of these vaccines are very close to perfect efficacy when it comes to preventing the most severe illness. Consider also that these percentages cannot be compared exactly, as all three vaccines conducted their trials in different ways. Essentially, you should take whichever vaccine is available to you, no matter which it one ends up being.
What about Side Effects?
In terms of common side effects, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine tends to cause milder and less frequent side effects than the other two available vaccines. The most commonly reported side effects are general fatigue, pain at the injection site, and fever, which can be managed easily with over-the-counter medications.